An employee at your practice has asked to
take a day of carer’s leave so she can take her eight-year old daughter (who has
broken her arm) to a check-up appointment at the nearest hospital. Is the
employee entitled to paid carer’s leave for whole day, or just for travel time and
the time taken for the appointment?
Paid carer’s leave entitlements
Section 97 of the Fair Work Act 1999 says
that an employee is entitled to take paid carer's leave to provide care or
support to a member of the employee's immediate family, or a member of the employee's household, who requires care or support because of:
(a) a personal illness, or personal
injury, affecting the member; or
(b) an unexpected emergency affecting
As the daughter’s broken arm is a personal
injury affecting a member of the employee’s family, the employee is entitled to
paid carer’s leave to take her daughter to the medical appointment. It would be different if the daughter was
attending a routine appointment (for example, a routine dental check-up). In
the case of routine appointments, there is no entitlement to paid carer’s
Length of paid carer’s leave
The second issue raised in this scenario is
the amount of paid carer’s leave that the employee may take. The employee
is only allowed to take leave to care for her daughter due to her illness or
injury. This might be just the travel and appointment time, or it might be
additional time if, for example, the child is unable to attend school due to
her broken arm.
In this instance, the practice is entitled to
request evidence regarding the daughter’s broken arm.
Paid sick leave
In another common situation, your employee has
asked to take time off to attend a specialist appointment. You wonder if the
employee is entitled to paid sick leave?
Under the Fair
Work Act 1999, an employee may take paid sick leave if the leave is taken
because the employee is not fit for work because of a personal illness or
personal injury affecting the employee. An employer can request evidence that the employee is
unable to work due to an illness or injury.
An employee is not strictly entitled to take
paid sick leave to attend a medical appointment unless the employee is unable
to work because of an illness or injury. More information is available on
the Fair Work
It may not be possible for employees to
schedule medical appointments outside of work hours. In addition, employees can
perceive that their employers are acting unfairly or unreasonably if they
strictly apply the law in relation to medical appointments. This can lead to a
decline in productivity, performance issues and even resignation.
For this reason, many employers offer
flexibility to allow employees to attend medical appointments, such as swapping
days or making up the time spent attending appointments. Some employers also
provide paid leave for medical appointments.
Another way to minimise any employee concerns
is to be upfront and outline your policy about medical appointments in the employment
policy, and to make employees aware of the policy.
Avoid discrimination complaints
It is important that full-time and part-time
employees are treated consistently in terms of paid sick leave and attending
medical appointments, to avoid any risk of a discrimination claim. For example,
it could be considered discriminatory to allow a full-time employee to take
paid sick leave to attend a medical appointment but not a part-time employee.
Are you covered for employee disputes?
Avant’s Practice Medical Indemnity Insurance Policy* provides cover for defending complaints that
arise from an employee dispute, including complaints under anti-discrimination
or equal opportunity legislation. This includes the legal costs of defending
the practice and its employees against allegations and complaints.
If you would like further information
regarding employment issues, visit our website or for immediate advice, call our Medico-legal Advisory
Service on 1800 128 268, 24-7 in emergencies.
*IMPORTANT: The Practice Medical Indemnity Policy is issued by Avant
Insurance Limited, ABN 82 003 707 471, AFSL 238 765. This policy is available
at www.avant.org.au or by contacting us on 1800 128 268. Practices need to
consider other forms of insurance including directors’ and officers’ liability,
public and products liability, property and business interruption insurance,
and workers compensation.
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